One of the first things David Joseph, chairman and CEO of Universal Music in the UK, tells me about himself is that he is “a happily self-confessed introvert in an extrovert world”. He’s not kidding. In the journey from the revolving door at the company’s King’s Cross building to the lift ride up to his glass-and-girder office on the 10th floor, I’ve seen outfits not out of place at an art-school graduation show.
By geeky contrast, Joseph is in Converse and a soft-cotton shirt, and I am not sure he’s shaved.
His hands are in his pockets (I’ve been told he doesn’t like to shake hands), and I’m immediately aware of his shyness because of a slight tangling of his sentence as he greets me. Also, his laugh is nervous, like a cough.
I’m here to talk to him about neurodiversity, the umbrella term covering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). More specifically, the research he’s commissioned into neurodiversity at work, which the company will publish in the autumn.
It’s a timely initiative. High-profile public figures are talking about their conditions, most recently Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist who has been open about her Asperger’s and OCD. Musicians who have volunteered conditions include Billie Eilish, who has Tourette’s, Justin Timberlake, Solange Knowles, Adam Levine and will.i.am, who all have ADHD. Florence Welch has dyspraxia. Of course, the relationship between creativity and quirkiness has always been there. John Lennon and David Bowie were frequently called “hyperactive”.